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New Generation Gins


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#181 Chris Amirault

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 07:40 PM

Boy, did I get an earful about Bluecoat when I visited Portland recently. Jeffrey Morgenthaler in particular was horrified when I told him about the Viggo I've been playing around with. "Here," he said, tossing a book at me. "Read what Paul Pacult says about Bluecoat." From his Kindred Spirits 2:

[M]y hope was that this would begin to smell like gin by displaying ... a trace of juniper, but that hope was dashed on the trash heap of reality as the horrible burnt rubber odor gets stronger; without any doubt in my mind, the worst gin bouquet I've ever encountered. The palate [leaves] behind a manufactured taste of glue in the woeful finish. A new entry for my Bottom Feeder List, this one-car accident doesn't in the least resemble gin at any level. Beyond horrible. Makes me yearn for early retirement.


A review that would make Lester Bangs blush.
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#182 lancastermike

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 06:51 AM

And I would reply to Paul Pacult with a hearty "Fuck You". Clearly Bluecoat does NOT have a heavy hand with the juniper. If that is required to be considered good gin there are many he must not like. That sort of over the top comment does no good for anyone.

Bluecoat leans towards a lighter flavor. It works well in my Aviation's and other drinks. I do NOT proclaim to be a gin "expert" like Mr. Pacult apparently is. I also try not to be a pretentious blowhard like him.

#183 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 07:16 AM

I think that the concern that he and others raise is that there have been inconsistencies in the distillation. That's certainly the beef among the critics I've talked to, and it would account for why you and I have had so many good experiences and others haven't.
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#184 slkinsey

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 07:57 AM

I don't quite get how not liking Bluecoat Gin, or indeed finding it execrable makes one a "pretentious blowhard." I wouldn't go so far as to say it's execrable myself, but also don't think it's particularly distinctive as a gin. I suppose I hang with Mr. Pacult in holding that the fundamental criterion for being a gin is having a primary flavor of juniper. Bluecoat, to me, hangs together with a number of self-proclaimed but-not-exactly-gin products having a primary character of citrus, with juniper somewhere in the background. Good products to introduce a citrus vodka drinker to juniper flavors, and not bad in a citrus drink (especially a long one) if you want to layer citrus on top of citrus. Combining like with like isn't really my thing, but some people like it and do it well.

I think people who like gin sometimes have a difficulty using products like Bluecoat and Hamptons and Tanqueray Rangpur and No. 209 (etc.) because they try to use it like gin, or in drinks where gin is normally used. These citrus-forward-with-a-touch-of-juniper spirits frequently don't work that way. I can't imagine using one of these products in a Juniperotivo, for example, because what makes the drink work is the juniper shining through all the other flavors. Rather, I think it makes more sense to think of these products like citrus-flavored spirits with some added complexity that includes a whisper of juniper (the world's best citrus vodka, if you will). This category of spirit is not so interesting to me, but many of them are quality products at what they do.

That said, and as Chris mentions, Bluecoat has had some distilling and quality control issues. Kohai was reporting as far back as February that he was seeing a significant percentage of bottles with a "synthetic, moldy ick going on." It seems likely, given Mr. Pacult's description, that he got one of these problem bottles (I should hasten to point out that it's not Mr. Pacult's obligation to search out alternative bottles to sample, but rather Bluecoat's obligation to have much, much better quality control). Given Bluecoat's lack of a distinctive juniper character, and the strong probability that he sampled some of their bad bottles, his judgment that it "doesn't in the least resemble gin at any level" doesn't seem out of line -- local pride notwithstanding.
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#185 lancastermike

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 09:51 AM

I don't quite get how not liking Bluecoat Gin, or indeed finding it execrable makes one a "pretentious blowhard." I wouldn't go so far as to say it's execrable myself, but also don't think it's particularly distinctive as a gin. I suppose I hang with Mr. Pacult in holding that the fundamental criterion for being a gin is having a primary flavor of juniper. Bluecoat, to me, hangs together with a number of self-proclaimed but-not-exactly-gin products having a primary character of citrus, with juniper somewhere in the background. Good products to introduce a citrus vodka drinker to juniper flavors, and not bad in a citrus drink (especially a long one) if you want to layer citrus on top of citrus. Combining like with like isn't really my thing, but some people like it and do it well.

I think people who like gin sometimes have a difficulty using products like Bluecoat and Hamptons and Tanqueray Rangpur and No. 209 (etc.) because they try to use it like gin, or in drinks where gin is normally used. These citrus-forward-with-a-touch-of-juniper spirits frequently don't work that way. I can't imagine using one of these products in a Juniperotivo, for example, because what makes the drink work is the juniper shining through all the other flavors. Rather, I think it makes more sense to think of these products like citrus-flavored spirits with some added complexity that includes a whisper of juniper (the world's best citrus vodka, if you will). This category of spirit is not so interesting to me, but many of them are quality products at what they do.

That said, and as Chris mentions, Bluecoat has had some distilling and quality control issues. Kohai was reporting as far back as February that he was seeing a significant percentage of bottles with a "synthetic, moldy ick going on." It seems likely, given Mr. Pacult's description, that he got one of these problem bottles (I should hasten to point out that it's not Mr. Pacult's obligation to search out alternative bottles to sample, but rather Bluecoat's obligation to have much, much better quality control). Given Bluecoat's lack of a distinctive juniper character, and the strong probability that he sampled some of their bad bottles, his judgment that it "doesn't in the least resemble gin at any level" doesn't seem out of line -- local pride notwithstanding.


OK, you convinced me. It is rotgut. I'll go home at once and pour what I have down the drain. My apologies to Mr. Pacult for calling him a pretentious blowhard. I don't even know who he is, but if he is some sort of expert on spirits the sort of comment he made does not reflect well on him. No reason at all to be that obnoxious.
What came over me? Perhaps the heat wave is to blame. Or the consumption of lousy gin has cause me to think I should comment. With luck, I'll soon return to my senses and just go away and not bother those of superior knowledge. Just who the hell do I think I am?

Edited by lancastermike, 20 July 2010 - 10:04 AM.


#186 JAZ

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 11:57 AM

It seems to me that there are two lines of criticism going here. If Bluecoat has production/quality control problems that result in some batches being definitely off -- burnt tires, "synthetic moldy ick" etc. -- and people comment on that, how does this make them pretentious, or blowhards?

It's unfortunate that Paul Pacult got a bad bottle, but it's not his fault. Should he have tried again, with an untainted bottle? Maybe, but I can't blame him for not wanting to if the original bottle was that bad.

As for the other line of criticism, there are lots of gins out there that don't carry much juniper punch (as Sam points out). Bluecoat (a good batch), Bombay Sapphire and Tanq 10 are the three that I've tried most often. They're fine -- good in some drinks, not so great in others. If I were going to pick one gin to drink, though, none of those would be it: I want my gin to have a big dose of juniper.

Does any of this mean you should pour out your bottle? Of course not. To take a similar example, I'm on the record here describing Smith & Cross rum as tasting like dust balls and old sweat socks, but none of its adherents called me a blowhard (at least not to my face), and I certainly didn't imply -- nor did they infer -- that I thought they all had bad taste. I'm sure none of them are pouring their bottles down the sink.

#187 EvergreenDan

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 03:57 PM

FWIW, my bottle may not be remarkable, but it certainly doesn't have the unpleasant characteristics mentioned.

Personally I consider maker's reputation and reviewer consensus when I discover an unexpectedly bad product. And of course, some good products just aren't to my taste.
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#188 brinza

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 06:56 PM

I think the problem with Mr. Pacult's review was not simply the fact that he didn't like it, but the way he chose to describe it. Honestly, I was wondering if perhaps he was eating the cork instead of drinking the gin. I doubt if, say, Michael Jackson would have described a whiskey in such terms. At least he had the decency to say that if he gave a whiskey a low rating, that it merely meant "Perhaps I was less than enthusiastic; you might love it."

I've only gone through 2 bottles of Bluecoat, and both were fine. I think the hue of the bottles themselves were different, but it might be that the empty one I had sitting around is sun-faded (I just can't bring myself to throw those bottles away), otherwise, the taste seemed the same.

JAZ, I laughed at your comment about the Smith & Cross Rum. You don't even want to know what I think Pyrat tastes like.

So here's a question: Even though this thread is about New Generation Gins, these days the stores seem to be full of them. So let's say one wanted to take a few steps back away from New Generation Gins and search out more juniper-forward gins. Other than Tanqueray, Beefeater, Gordon's, Boodles, and Seagram's, what are some other good juniper-forward gins that one should look for? (And don't say Junipero, because it doesn't seem to be very widely distributed).
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#189 Dan Perrigan

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 08:14 PM

Other than Tanqueray, Beefeater, Gordon's, Boodles, and Seagram's, what are some other good juniper-forward gins that one should look for? (And don't say Junipero, because it doesn't seem to be very widely distributed).


I was introduced to Broker's Gin a few months ago and it's now my favorite all-around gin. Strong juniper, 94 Proof, reasonably priced (about $26 for a Liter bottle). It makes a damn fine Corpse Reviver. It's hard to find on the East Coast, though. When I lived in Chicago it was easy to find.

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#190 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 09:03 PM

So here's a question: Even though this thread is about New Generation Gins, these days the stores seem to be full of them. So let's say one wanted to take a few steps back away from New Generation Gins and search out more juniper-forward gins. Other than Tanqueray, Beefeater, Gordon's, Boodles, and Seagram's, what are some other good juniper-forward gins that one should look for? (And don't say Junipero, because it doesn't seem to be very widely distributed).


Bombay Dry. A bit heavy on the cardamom, but it's good stuff. Shame the idea of "Bombay Gin" now almost universally connotes sapphire.
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#191 Kohai

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 09:58 PM

Hear hear on the Bombay Dry.

Full-strength Gordon's, too. But good luck.
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#192 slkinsey

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 05:21 AM

Full strength Gordon's! Alas, not available in the US. But for the full on Christmas tree effect, it's hard to beat Gordon's. Even the weak sauce Gordon's we get here is one of the most juniper-y gins around.

I'm actually in the market for a cold trap so I can freeze-distill the extra water out of Gordon's and Old Overholt up to around 50% ABV.
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#193 Kohai

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 07:21 AM

Huh. Now that is an idea........


ETA: A crazy thing about full-on Gordon's is that you can't even buy it in the UK, I'm given to understand - except in duty free stores in the airport. WTF.

What about Plymouth? Isn't the English bottling proofier than the milquetoast US bottling?

"Proofier". Ha.

Edited by Kohai, 21 July 2010 - 07:34 AM.

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#194 slkinsey

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 08:00 AM

afaik, Plymouth's flagship product is 41.2% abv everywhere. They also make a 57% abv "navy strength" product that is not available in the US.
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#195 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 09:03 AM

Full strength Gordon's! Alas, not available in the US. But for the full on Christmas tree effect, it's hard to beat Gordon's. Even the weak sauce Gordon's we get here is one of the most juniper-y gins around.

I'm actually in the market for a cold trap so I can freeze-distill the extra water out of Gordon's and Old Overholt up to around 50% ABV.


I actually had the opportunity to try full-strength (94 proof) Gordon's about a year ago and although my tasting wasn't a side-by-side I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything since I have access to Tanqueray. Aren't they even made by the same company?

Our Gordon's suffices just fine for most any gin highball type thing, and what a price!
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#196 slkinsey

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 09:10 AM

imo, Gordon's is the most juniper-forward of all the classic London dry gins. The full strength stuff is further in that direction.
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#197 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 10:09 AM

imo, Gordon's is the most juniper-forward of all the classic London dry gins. The full strength stuff is further in that direction.


I would dispute that only to say that Gordon's has fewer accents on the juniper, so it stands out a little more with respect to Tanqueray, but I don't think the amount present is actually greater. It's just that if you wanted to show someone what juniper and juniper alone tasted like, you could give them a sample of Gordon's. With Tanqueray the angelica and citrus are strong supporting notes that might confuse someone.

eta: I guess that is not necessarily mutually exclusive with your claim.

Edited by thirtyoneknots, 21 July 2010 - 10:12 AM.

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#198 brinza

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 10:54 AM

I was introduced to Broker's Gin a few months ago and it's now my favorite all-around gin. Strong juniper, 94 Proof, reasonably priced (about $26 for a Liter bottle).

I did manage to get a hold of one bottle of Broker's. I though it was excellent. I'd like to be able to get it again.

Bombay Dry. A bit heavy on the cardamom, but it's good stuff. Shame the idea of "Bombay Gin" now almost universally connotes sapphire.

I almost forgot about Bombay Dry. I bought it once. I'm going to have to revisit it (and it's much less expensive than Sapphire, too).

It's just that if you wanted to show someone what juniper and juniper alone tasted like, you could give them a sample of Gordon's.

Actually, there is a gin made in Germany called Steinhager. And under German law, it may be flavored with only juniper and no other botanicals.

So, it seems that for a juniper-heavy, 94-proof gin, the best choices are Tanqueray, Broker's, and Seagram's Distiller's Reserve. Running close behind these would be Boodles at 90.4 proof, and Bombay Dry at 86 proof.
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#199 Chris Amirault

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 11:38 AM

Another vote here for Broker's. I blew through a liter a while ago and haven't been able to find it since.
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#200 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 10:13 PM


It's just that if you wanted to show someone what juniper and juniper alone tasted like, you could give them a sample of Gordon's.

Actually, there is a gin made in Germany called Steinhager. And under German law, it may be flavored with only juniper and no other botanicals.

So, it seems that for a juniper-heavy, 94-proof gin, the best choices are Tanqueray, Broker's, and Seagram's Distiller's Reserve. Running close behind these would be Boodles at 90.4 proof, and Bombay Dry at 86 proof.


Steinhager is weird, and I don't think it really works where a London Dry is called for. Brokers is pretty ubiquitous around here. I like it ok but I never really buy it.

As for your choices, don't forget Beefeaters! It probably makes up over half of all my gin comsumption. The more I drink it the more I become convinced it represents the platonic ideal for London Dry Gin.
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#201 evo-lution

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 12:11 PM

I was given a bottle of Darnley's View gin (http://darnleysview.com/) this week to review on my blog. I've not written it up yet but intend to on the 23rd July.

It's a relatively new London Dry (from Scotland), with predominant juniper and coriander balanced against layers of citrus and elderflower. A very interesting gin...
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#202 eje

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:35 AM

Regarding Bluecoat, I tried it once at a bar and thought it was horribly distilled and harsh. I thought maybe it might have been the bartender's technique and bought a bottle on the strength of other people's recommendations. I again found it horribly distilled and harsh.

As someone who spends their own money on booze, that's all the chances I'm going to give it.

The last straw was an article I read with the distiller, where the interviewer asked about the base spirit for the gin. He replied with words to the effect, "We use really cheap Grain Neutral Sprits as the base for our gin. They wouldn't work in a vodka, where you can actually taste the base spirit, but in a gin, where the botanicals cover the flavor of the base spirit, it is fine." That tells me about all I need to know, and no, the botanicals don't cover the flavor of your cheap base spirit.

Which sort of segues to a larger point, with the explosion of micro-distilleries in the US, how many great distillers are there in this country? What makes every one of these little distilleries think they can make a product and instantly come to market with a product that can compete with the resources and traditions of decades or centuries old producers?

Another point, Americans tend to take the attitude of following their own muse, when it comes to making spirits (and other things). I've met distillers who hadn't even tasted Absinthe before deciding to make their own. They just asked their friends for their opinions, finalized the recipe, and released it to the public.

One of the reasons I kind of like Square One Botanical, not just because it is a quality product, but because they DIDN'T release it as a gin.

If you're going to go as far outside of the box as some of the modern gins have, why even bother labeling it Gin?
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#203 slkinsey

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 11:32 AM

If you're going to go as far outside of the box as some of the modern gins have, why even bother labeling it Gin?

Amen, brother.
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#204 brinza

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 01:19 PM

Which sort of segues to a larger point, with the explosion of micro-distilleries in the US, how many great distillers are there in this country? What makes every one of these little distilleries think they can make a product and instantly come to market with a product that can compete with the resources and traditions of decades or centuries old producers?

According to The Book of Gins and Vodkas: A Complete Guide, by Bob Emmons, there are four major grain processing companies in the U.S. that distill grain alcohol:
ADM
Midwest Grain Co.
Grain Processing Corporation
Seagram's
Together, they make 99% of the potable grain spirits used to make vodka in the U.S. Basically, according to Emmons, nearly all vodka makers in the U.S.(I imagine this applies to gin producers as well), with the exceptions of few true micro-distilleries, purchase grain alcohol by the tank-car load, (possibly re-distill it, though that's actually the exception), and add their own water to bring it to bottle proof. Even Tito's does this. He dilutes the base (190 proof) spirit to 100 proof, redistills it, then dilutes it again to 80 proof. Seagram's is probably the only mass market vodka/gin producer that manufactures its own neutral grain spirit.

In some European countries, the distilleries are government-owned and the neutral grain spirit is sold to rectification companies.

Interesting fact about British gins: British law forbids the making of gin on the same premises where neutral grain spirits are made. So even British gin is made from neutral grain spirit that purchased or made elsewhere.

I do know that Pennsylvania Pure Distilling in Pittsburgh, for example, who make Boyd & Blair Vodka, do make their own mash from locally grown potatoes and distill the vodka themselves in small batches.

Philadelphia Distilling's website, however, contradicts the statements quoted from that interview, but they're certainly not going put that on a website.

Edited by brinza, 23 July 2010 - 01:21 PM.

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#205 eje

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 02:11 PM

Yes, I understand this. Very few distillers produce their own Grain Neutral Spirits for Gin or Vodka.

Even those that do, often only produce a small portion of "flavoring spirit" and then blend it with purchased Neutral Spirits.

And it makes sense, the types of large scale continuous stills which are able to produce highly refined GNS are not really economical for a micro-distillery.

However, when talking to the folks at House Spirits they told me there are many different grades and types of Grain Neutral Spirits which can be purchased from these companies. From stuff that will be used for perfume to basically unaged whiskey, they allow you to specify what grains, proof, quality, etc.
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#206 evo-lution

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 06:14 PM

What makes every one of these little distilleries think they can make a product and instantly come to market with a product that can compete with the resources and traditions of decades or centuries old producers?


I don't really get this point? Are you talking about 'new-world' gins versus London dry?
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#207 slkinsey

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 07:10 AM

I think it speaks to micros in general. There are a zillion of them out there selling $35 bottles of gin or $40 bottles of "aged apple vodka" or $50 bottles of whiskey, but very few of them are turning out anything that approaches being as good as a $22 bottle of Tanqueray or a $19 bottle of Laird's bonded or a $23 bottle of Wild Turkey.
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#208 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 07:36 AM

I think it speaks to micros in general. There are a zillion of them out there selling $35 bottles of gin or $40 bottles of "aged apple vodka" or $50 bottles of whiskey, but very few of them are turning out anything that approaches being as good as a $22 bottle of Tanqueray or a $19 bottle of Laird's bonded or a $23 bottle of Wild Turkey.


Do you think this is a function of not being able to take advantage of economies of scale to the same degree or is it something else? I know a lot of small wineries basically set their prices arbitrarily, pricing their stuff as high as they think they can while still selling all of what they make each year; the amount you pay often has little to do with what it takes to produce what is in the bottle. Do small distillers follow a similar pattern? I'd love to be able to support small distillers (there are even a few in TX now making something other than vodka) but the pricing makes that challenging.

I consider (perhaps not accurately) St. George in California to be a relatively small distiller, and yet their product lineup tends to be pretty reasonably priced for what it is. Same with Anchor. Compare with Clear Creek, which I imagine to be about the same size; even accounting for the presumably higher cost of making fruit distillates, the disparity in pricing is remarkable. Both great companies making great products but what gives?

Another problem is that when small distilleries aren't making stuff for the masses (ie vodka) they are making things with such a limited novelty value (white whiskey, for example) that any given customer is going to take some time to go through the first bottle--very little repeat business so they have to price higher to make more per unit, meaning the bottle is more dear and gets consumed slower. Vicious cycle.

Apart from the economy of scale and the startup delay (4 years minimum to age the first batch of "good" whiskey), what keeps the small guys from being able to make something competitive in terms of quality and pricing? Whole thing makes me wonder if perhaps liqueurs aren't a better option for people interested in microdistilling.
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#209 slkinsey

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 08:45 AM

Another way to do it is like what Redemption Rye does: Release a young product and hold some back for more aging so that eventually you'll find the sweet spot. I should hasten to point out that they're selling it at a reasonable price and seem to know plenty about the tradition and history of rye whiskey, so that they're able to do something somewhat unusual (much higher percentage of rye grain in the mashbill) that still doesn't break them out of the category.
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#210 brinza

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 10:31 AM

Getting back to new generation gins for a moment, one of the interesting aspects of these low-juniper gins, I think, is that the other botanicals are more readily discernible. However, it seems that most of the low-juniper gins tend to lean heavier on the citrus. What would be an example of a new generation gin that isn't citrus-heavy, ie, one that tastes more distinctly of the herbaceous botanicals? (However, maybe such a thing would be closer to being an aquavit than a gin.)

Edited by brinza, 25 July 2010 - 10:31 AM.

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